Agroforestry’s role in an energy transformation for human and planetary health: bioenergy and climate change
When agroforestry was ten years old as formal term, the Brundtland report1 on Sustainable Development reviewed many of the aspects that are still part of the current discussions – but it did not have the ‘global climate change’ issue on its agenda yet. Energy was amply discussed, however, and there the issue of carbon emissions was getting attention. Remarkably soon after that report, in 1992, the Rio conventions put climate change, biodiversity and desertification (land degradation) at the same level of priority and global commitments were made. It has taken the next 25 years to come to grips with implementation modalities and reframe the commitments as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015, that presented access to energy, human health, climate change and integrity of terrestrial ecosystems at the same level as food, water, jobs and income (Figure 13.3). Within the climate change discussions, the need for a decarbonization of the worlds’ energy systems has been widely accepted, but its interactions with changes in terrestrial carbon stocks (including forests, mineral soils and peatlands) have been more contentious. Part of the problem is the different basis of accounting, at national scale, for energy-related greenhouse gas emissions at the ‘demand’ side of the equation, while changes in terrestrial C stocks are accounted at territorial or ‘supply’ level. With the connecting global trade outside accounting systems and the political interpretation of the agreed ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility’2 controversial, there was no easy way to agree on effective measures. Initial resistance to seriously discuss ‘Adaptation’, as some had hopes that ‘Mitigation’ would be effective in curbing global climate change, was finally abandoned, but had led to firewalls between mitigation and adaptation at implementation and budget level (Fig. 16.1). Where agroforestry was already early on identified as relevant at the interface3, there was little institutional space to follow through on synergies4,5,6. The focus on Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+)7 was on forests in their institutional definition and the concept of Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses (REALU) didn’t get the early traction it might have deserved.